Art Parties

The Art World Embarked on a Cruise Last Night. The Port of Call? Raising Money for the Art Production Fund

2024 Art Production Fund Gala. All photography by Deonté Lee/BFA and courtesy of the Art Production Fund.

Few buildings have as much cachet as the Seagram. Designed by a dream team of architects—Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson, Ely Jacques Kahn, and Robert Allan Jacobs—the 38-story landmark has seen its fair share of history-making fêtes since opening in 1959. In the 21st century, one of the buzzier occasions hosted in the building’s iconic Grill and Pool rooms has been the annual Art Production Fund gala. 

The 14th edition, presented for the third year in a row by Saks, went overboard with a nautical theme and full slate of programming. As guests entered the subtly lit Grill, they were met with champagne (courtesy of Lallier), a suite of tropical drinks and small bites, and a dazzling site-specific installation by cult edible artist Laila Gohar. Beached merpeople, in the form of Aqualillies synchronized swimmers, held court in the room’s upper decks, lounging on beach chairs and handing out APF-stamped slippers and life preservers. 

Taking in the cruise atmosphere were a cadre of New York’s creative elite. The entertainment industry turned out, with Dianna Agron, Olivia Wilde, Sophia Bush, and Drew Barrymore mingling among the crowd. The worlds of fashion and beauty were well represented too, with Wes Gordon, Cassandra Grey, Stacey Bendet, Cynthia Rowley, Indré Rockefeller, and Lizzie Grover Rad making their rounds. And the art set fittingly showed up in numbers. APF co-founders Yvonne Force Villareal and Doreen Remen; artists Paul Arnhold, Derrick Adams, Jenna Gribbon, Carrie Mae Weems, Chloe Wise, Anna Weyant, Joel Mesler, and Hank Willis Thomas; patrons Hannah Bronfman, Sarah Arison, Jen Rubio; and curators Isolde Brielmaier, Donna De Salvo, and Francesco Bonami were all in attendance.

As the night wore on, the focus turned to the Pool and dinner. Ringing in the meal was a performance by Shikeith, who is known for his exploration of Black masculinities. “Visiting Hours” saw the Pittsburgh-based artist and fellow performers take over the titular Pool in a tribute to the Hudson River piers, a pillar for the queer community. The APF’s fearless leaders, Executive Director Casey Fremont and Director of Operations Kathleen Lynch, toasted the festivities and gave guests the go ahead to dig into an indulgent dinner curated by APF board member Sarah Hoover. 

To close out the evening, Sara Friedlander, deputy chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, kicked off a cruise ship bidding war with a live auction. Lots by the likes of Hiba Schahbaz, Dominique Fung, Maia Ruth Lee, and Joel Mesler raised over $850,000 for the organization, which will use the funds for new public commissions by Lee and Mesler. Filled with excellent conversation, lobster ravioli for days, and a renewed love for art, guests made their way back into their corners of New York, not even a little seasick.